Musings of a Dubai Mom
Whenever discussions of schooling in Dubai come up, the talk centers on fee, and parking issues, and facilities, and traffic and timings… lots of prosaic details that carry this beautiful thing called daily-life. On and on and on… so much that we forget the forest for the trees.
But sometimes I pause to just see the wonder and the beauty that is being the part of a school in Dubai. It is an immense social experiment on a large scale. The educators have the opportunity to shape critical attitudes in young moldable minds in their formative years. They have the power to make real impactful change. Dubai is strange little city – so many nationalities, cultures and communities. Each seems to exist in its own little cocoon, with some, but not much, interaction with other communities.
In the schoolyard this is evident too. As we wait for the children to exit their classes, mums stand in clusters talking to each other. If you observe the clusters, you can see the little clusters are defined by race. The British mums are together, the Arabs are together, and the Asians talk to each other. The groups where you can see a mix of nationalities and races are fewer, unfortunately. I wonder why that is. I wonder if it is a positive or negative thing. I wonder if anyone else notices.
I do believe it is the loss of an excellent opportunity to mingle, participate in and experience another perspective and lifestyle. As a brown hijabi, who’s lived in Dubai forever – I must admit, the experience of the school pick-ups still has me nervous and confused. Despite working in Dubai for over a decade, it was in the schoolyard that I experienced so many cultures and nationalities all together at the same time – in such close quarters with their different idiosyncrasies.
But this article was not meant to be about the parents. It is meant to be about the children. About the amazing opportunity they have to grow up in an environment where they are exposed to so many different cultures. A place where a class of 24 students has 19 nationalities. And sure enough, the divisions that are so apparent in the parents do not exist in their children at all.
These children take differences of race and lifestyle as a matter of fact. If my son were to read this article, he’d wonder what I was talking about. Being exposed to mostly one nationality in my formative years has shaped my attitudes. I had close contact with people vastly different to me only after I started working. That is not the case with my son. In fact, if anything, I worry that he has very little contact with people ‘like’ him in terms of race and culture.
As I watch the children race and tumble out of the classrooms, I feel a sense of ‘wow’. I see that the anxieties that shape my mental landscape in letting go of the familiar and stepping out of my comfort zone to interact with different people do not exist in these children. They accept, they play and laugh with abandon. Differences are what’s familiar and real to them.
That is such a beautiful beautiful thing.
The next time I have a conversation about school, I don’t want to dwell about the parking and the fee and the homework. I want someone to stand with me and marvel at the world that will be created when every child builds a deep bond of friendship and love with someone who shares nothing of their race or culture. I want to sigh at the immense potential and opportunity that all the stakeholders of the school community have to create a truly meaningful experience for all of us. In front of our eyes is a world where differences of race, religion and culture do not divide. Instead the shared values and experiences unite. Where children develop empathy and respect for different belief systems.
The best of the world is right here, in front of us, in a Dubai schoolyard.